Having returned from my foreign sojourn a more relaxed, sagacious and- admittedly- sunburnt man, I would like to think that my time spent admiring the nubile physique of various ladies poolside has imbued me with an ability to make sense of the world. As alluded to in my previous sentence, any travelogue would bear more of a resemblance to Alex Garland in The Beach as opposed to Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises but it is early days. Reading an article in The Guardian business blog, (I know, me reading the ultimate left-leaning, pinky toed paper of the self-appointed, intellectually superior race), I came across an article about the two property portal behemoths, Zoopla and Rightmove. The latter is currently valued at £2.15 billion with a share price listed at £22.00 as opposed to £2.00 in 2008. Zoopla this week floated at a value of £919 million; nice work for Alex Chesterman whose worries about Nicholas Anelka at West Brom will I am sure now be viewed with a more sanguine eye. The thick end of a billion in the bank is a panacea for many ills. Is this though another sign of the booming property market or, although, an indication that more people are actively looking for properties, further evidence that the long sought after footfall through an estate agent’s door is a thing of the past?
The idea behind the daddy of them all, Rightmove, was quite obviously, genius. What is less obvious to the seeing/buying public is the cost to an agent to use these sites. As a general rule, we all perceive the internet to be ‘free’. Far from it. As stated in the article, on average, to use Rightmove costs an agent £607 per branch, per month, per discipline. That means £607 for sales, with an additional £607 for lettings. I’m not knocking it; my hat is doffed to my former fellow Halifax colleague and founder of Rightmove, Miles Shipside. What is highlighted though, as the hysteria of people not being able to buy a property makes its way back onto the front pages (it had been relegated or even left on the bench in the past fortnight, but thanks to Suarez the papers and the nation need something else to get worked up over), is that buoyancy in the housing market benefits an awful lot of people. This can be removal men, tradesman, cleaners, solicitors and not forgetting the funders and shareholders of the property portals.
Just as I was about to adopt a more measured view of Edward Snowden’s paper of choice (keep up all you conspiracy theorists), I read a line that did make me laugh, “…one of these years somebody will find a popular and efficient way to remove estate agents from the business of buying and selling houses…” [sic] That should arrive about the same time as men being able to breathe unaided on the moon or if you really want to go to extremes, England progressing beyond the group stage at a World Cup.
On a final, wholly unconnected point, who at Channel 4 had the bright idea to improve their already desultory viewing figures by hiring Gok Wan for their Royal Ascot coverage? Someone should tell the fashion guru that he will be shortly be dumped on a hostile planet like his brother Obi. There’s a prize for the first person to contact the office and name which particular Star Wars film and the name of the planet…